Friday, February 23, 2024

A matter of choice

One cannot expect individuals to be idealistic, so we need to put in place a system that addresses these problems more directly. The question is whether small-scale activism is an appropriate response to householder demands or whether it risks ‘nickle-and-diming’ them to large-scale ineffectiveness? It is not so much the time and money that is worrying, but the mental effort. All over the world, there are people who are fighting for justice. For their sake, we need systemic reform. To quote Arundhati Roy: “The system never tires … But, fighting people tire.” To not recognize this is to ignore reality. Then, there are people who are “constrained” to make bad choices. For them, you need systemic reform. Then, there are people with heightened sensitivities who might start examining everything in their lives. For them, life can become very miserable and frustrating when the system seems to thwart all their well-intentioned efforts. For their Nirvana, you need systemic reform. Individuals stimulate and initiate change, but by institutionalizing change as part of the system, you minimize problems for future generations. Definitely, the government must be part of this. The bureaucracy is part of it. The laws, the rules, the regulations, and the courts are all part of it. But without the people, everything falls apart. Systemic reform also involves people reform; that is reform of you and me. There is no either-or, each one entails the other. To be clear, people are part of the system; the system is a reflection of the values, choices, and attitudes of the people. So, there is a problem when we miss the people connection and just go about trying to reform legislation (without reforming ourselves). There could be a real danger of the system ceasing to be a reflection of people’s values, choices, and attitudes. Legislation will start dictating our lives, and, it is not hard to see how that, in turn, leads to frustration, more finger-pointing and a need for more systemic reform. Where does it end? Clearly for any kind of meaningful systemic reform, we need a critical mass of individuals who present a different set of values and choices. And that is where the people, you and I, come in. It is a question of priorities. Do you want to initiate change or do you want to wait for the system to reform? A requirement in building fragmented society is for the people to change their mindset. Self development and improvement is all about change. If we were happy with the status quo, we wouldn’t be seeking to improve ourselves, would we? Yet, change requires us to get out of our comfort zone. No doubt, change requires a certain amount of risk. Even good changes that we greatly desire require courage. Do we have the courage to change in the ways we hope to change? Indeed people reform is desirable, nay, necessary for a meaningful systemic reform. Grassroots efforts have to feed into systemic reform. And it all starts with a matter of choice. If you have a choice among multiple relatively easy options, why not exercise the better option? Or if not, at least “support” the groups that are fighting for change! At the very least, try not to be dismissive about them and try to understand why they are making all the noises. If one cannot directly participate at the grassroots, try to be supportive. This can help build solidarity. All that is being stressed is for participation in as many areas as one possibly can, and that participation can occur at one of many levels not necessarily all at the same level. For example, we can be an active Asha volunteer and try to do something about the education of kids of the servant/maids working in our house, but we can also minimize our use of plastic and be environmental friendly, besides also being sympathetic, if not directly supportive, of some mass movement. We have to start with changes in our own lives, and continue to build on those changes. Do not shortchange your abilities to do so.